Freedom on the wave
Do you want to just pick up your bag, feel the coastal life, try something offbeat and glide away from your worries without thinking if it's going to be safe, comfortable, or women-friendly - maybe you are reading the right story.
I always feel a little extra happy than usual around beaches. I was 14 when I saw the ocean for the first time, this is when I traveled to Andamans with my parents. It felt like a dream to live by the beach, it was also the first time I saw someone surf (Two men at the Radhakrishna beach, havelock - if I remember it well). I found that absolutely mesmerizing and that moment was imprinted on my mind.
Finally, about a few years back (when I had some funds and freedom to travel) I decided to try surfing. I started doing my research on where should I go to learn. Being based out of Bangalore meant the accessibility to both the east coast and west coast was around the same distance.
So, I convinced two of my other friends to accompany me for this surf adventure trip to Mulki, where Mantra - The First Surf School of India is located.
Do you know they have been surfing in India for around 20 years now?
And also Mantra has trained Women athletes to represent India at the World SUP and Paddle-board Championship organized by the International Surfing Association and India's first professional female surfer - Ishita Malaviya started her surf journey at Mantra Surf Club?
But I realized there is much more to this place when I came here - The Mantra Vibe - like no other, so serene and peaceful. I instantly felt belonged here, just as home. The surf experience was something much more than I could even imagine - emotional and empowering at the same time.
Our first trip was over and we had to head back. But I just kept dreaming about surfing and I just knew one thing I wanted to go back to Mantra again and do a longer surf course. But the question was - is it safe to travel by myself and stay there? After all, I've just been here once and not many people have heard of Mulki. Well, being a girl, the hesitation or friends' and families' concern is quite normal.
But my gut feeling said, "Yes - Let's go. You be you, go feel the freedom girl". It was also backed by some logical and emotional quotients:
- I felt super safe and comfortable at Mantra, easy to reach out and talk to anyone for help
- Everyone is friendly, and the instructors maintain a good professional behavior
- I met a few other women solo backpackers and tons of likeminded people
- The vibe is great and fun
- The locals in Mulki seemed quite helpful and welcoming
Then I came here for a long course and had a blast, improved a lot on my surfing. Visited a few other times with friends as well and also got a chance to volunteer for a month! This was one of the best experiences in my life. And it doesn't matter if you are a girl or boy, you get to learn and do the same things. I learned a lot about open water - currents, tides, rescue methods, and more about training students to SUP, kayak, and surf. How to pitch a campfire and tent? repair a cycle? I also used GoPro in water for the first time during my volunteering and made tons of friends.
By this time I was sure I wanted to stay back in Mulki and continue my Surf Journey. Thanks to the remote working setup that was introduced during the pandemic era, which made it much easier for me to take this decision. Soon I completely shifted my base to Mulki. It's been more than a year now, I'm staying here. I'm also a part-time instructor at Mantra. And now I can vouch for my gut feeling I had the first time I visited here - it is so true and I'm so glad I made this call. The locals in the town are welcoming and are becoming more comfortable with the idea of women surfing in swimwear. I remember a fisherman saying to me a few months back while I was SUPing in the river that it's so good to see women being so fearless in the water. Thanks to Mantra and the Surfing Swami Foundation for educating the local communities and kids around the ocean, environment, and surfing. And for organizing the multiple beach clean-up programs. Trust me, this is one of the most beautiful beaches in India, and I see this place growing further to become a sustainable surf town of India where boys and girls, men and women just enjoy surfing together.
Surfing is a journey, more like a way of life and everyone has their own journey. We generally meet up and talk about it and share our experiences, here are some from my fellow surfer chicas!
"My first time at Mantra was with two friends when were caravanning along the coast. It was our second stop, but after the one night we spent there, we already knew it was our favorite stop and I vowed to return. And return I did! In the same year, I was back in Mantra and spent ten days there.
Mantra is a VIBE. It’s an easy space to be with the best people and lots of really fun travelers coming in, and I was comfortable the second I got there. Also maybe because the ocean is like home to me - it’s where I’m happiest, where I always want to be, and what I never want to leave. I learned how to surf and I was actually able to start catching my own waves, which is crazy because I never thought I could. Once you’ve unlocked THAT level of exhilaration, you never want to stop.
It’s incredible how helpful and kind the folks are; they make you feel like you’re with family and right at home, and honestly, that’s how I feel about Mantra - it’s a home I’ll keep going back to"
"I’d heard Mulki is where birds swim and fish fly, little did I know I’d become them both. Swimming in the calm sunset breeze and flying on the waves.
Mantra is a world of its own and the sea is its emperor. Over here surfing is not a sport, it's a lifestyle. And this lifestyle, in 20 days has instilled in me the kind of discipline that I’d been striving to achieve for years. Not just me, many others around me seem to have found a better version themselves.
The sea knows what’s up and how to make it right. Everyday a new lesson is learned. Resilience, humility and patience are my new virtues.
As a traveller I’m aware I’ll have to move along at some point but a piece of my heart will remain here. Although I came here empty handed, i will be leaving with a skill and a new perspective."
"My first experience with Mantra was when I stayed over a weekend in 2019. I visited back again in 2021 and this time, I stayed for an entire month to learn how to surf. The coaches and the community made me feel right at home. When initially, I couldn’t pop up on the board, the head instructor Sham took time to teach me separately. The other coaches too were super helpful and in fact, I first learned how to swim in the Shambhavi river, thanks to the coaches here."- Anupama
"What is a solo female traveler most concerned about?
This is exactly what Mantra offers.
This was my third time at Mantra and the place already feels like home.
Be it the comfort like home, the simple satvik food, or the super helpful people, the vibe makes you feel instantly at ease."
"Mantra! The place I can call home in a heartbeat. There's something about the place and people words can't explain and should be experienced by yourself. I'm glad to have met the mantra family and have learned the art of surf from the best. I'm totally hooked and keep coming back every month. Part of the reason is meeting like-minded, fun, and adventurous folks who also love surfing here. The place has a vibe like nothing else and I can't wait to get back!"
- Pooja Raghu
"I first came to Mantra in Jan 2019, surfing was just something new to try. When we got there, we knew it was special - there was something different and magical about the place. I still remember the excitement of those first few days. I soon realized everyone was either surfing or talking about surfing, even if they’ve been surfing all their lives. It was incredible to see the passion they had for the sport and to be able to introduce the sport to new people.
My first surf session wasn’t in ideal conditions for beginners, just hours of rough seas and waves throwing us kooks around. But then I caught my first wave and despite the struggle, I WAS HOOKED. It was exhilarating. Since then, I’ve grown to love the struggle, the wait for that perfect wave, the paddling - all of it! Special shoutout to Shreyas and Ravi for those first few sessions 🙂
In the past two years, I’ve been to Mantra more times than all my other vacations combined. I’ve met the most amazing people here who’ve become great friends. And I know I’ll keep coming back every chance I get."
- Pooja Hegde
Well for me when I'm out there in the ocean it feels meditative like I can leave all my problems on land and give in to the ocean. And when I ride that wave, I feel freedom on the wave. And that's exactly what I tell all my other friends - Surfing is a journey, the learning keeps going on. For now, let yourself flow, be in the moment and You do you. Enjoy the ride on that wave, it is yours and yours alone!